How do we know which retailers have ethical practices? Related to the Bangladeshi factory tragedy

(265 Posts)
Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 07:15:05

The news from Banglaesh gets worse and worse - 352 people dead so far in the collapses factory where people made clothes for Matalan, Primark and ther names.

I don't want to buy from labels that don't use sweat shops and don't use suppliers that have coercive or dehumanising working conditions. Does anyone know if there is a list prepared of the most ethical retailers?

emilystrange2013 Sun 28-Apr-13 20:20:19

Thanks for that list YoniOno . You know what, as distasteful as it is that Primark and the like are using these places to produce their stuff, I think it's even more unethical and immoral of the high end companies that are making such a huge profit on each piece.

Would it be fair to say that if a product is labelled as made in an EU country that it it safe enough to say that it's ethically produced, or is there any funny business with the labelling?

Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 20:32:57

emily I used to analyse luxury goods companies and I know that often goods will say 'Made in Italy' but in fact to qualify for that they only need to be finished in Italy, final seams and packaging.

I remember being astonished to find that the margin, not just the gross margin, the margin after sales and marketing costs etc, on Louis Vuitton leather goods, such as their wallets, was 90%

Thank you for that list if retailers. It will inform my shopping from now on

Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 20:33:50

OF retailers, sorry yoniono

VinegarDrinker Sun 28-Apr-13 20:54:47

Thanks for those links. We try to buy second hand wherever possible, but have slipped back to H&M a bit recently.

I am surprised to see M&S performing so poorly on those lists.

I think Frugi are pretty sound ethically for kids' stuff, not cheap though.

ProjectGainsborough Sun 28-Apr-13 20:57:50

Wow. Boo to Vivienne then. Feel a bit upset about that...

FrugalFashionista Sun 28-Apr-13 20:58:19

Yoni thanks for making the list, very helpful!

'Made in EU' is one of the most misleading labels out there. It's very vague and it can mean, among other things -
* this was manufactured in a hellhole somewhere in Asia, then brought within EU borders for final assembly or finishing details (such as adding a the clasp to the bag)
* it was made in a windowless container in the outskirts of Naples by Chinese illegal immigrants (read Roberto Saviano's chilling expose Gomorrah)
* it was made in one of the newest EU countries where labor laws are lax and corruption common - and very few people earn a living wage

I was going to buy a Burberry winter coat last year. It said 'Made in Bosnia' inside. I have nothing against Bosnia, jobs are needed there, but this is not exactly what you are expecting for a traditionally British company.

Many of the companies that are highly rated are Scandinavian in origin (Nudie is Swedish; H&M and its affiliates COS, Monki, and Cheap Monday started in Sweden; the Vila/Vero Moda/Pieces/Only/Selected/Mamalicious conglomerate is Danish) - the consumer movement and various ethical initiatives have been very strong there for a long and consumer movements and watchdog groups have definitely had a strong influence on corporate policies.

Many luxury companies are an evil bunch these days (LVMH in particular) - they have a track record of shortchanging both their suppliers and customers.

Lots of great books out there for the concerned consumer - pick just one of these, read it, and you will be much more informed:
* The travels of the t shirt in the global economy
* Overdressed
* Deluxe, how luxury lost its luster
* Factory Girls
And of course contemporary classics like Naomi Klein's No Logo and Saviano's Gomorrah.

4yoniD Sun 28-Apr-13 21:26:47

Has anyone else noticed that the links above contradict each other?

I noticed this one www.labourbehindthelabel.org/campaigns/itemlist/category/250-company-profiles put Asda higher (relatively higher, 3/5) while this one www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/clothing/clothesshops.aspx puts it down the bottom, even if you adjust the sliders to only take into account people.

Cristiane Sun 28-Apr-13 22:03:23

It is tricky 4yoni and I was wondering if it would work to select retailers that positively work for the benefit of those working in developing countries... It is so tricky!

PetiteMum Sun 28-Apr-13 22:13:26

And we hae online retailers like asks, boohoo etc that make it even more complex...... It is consumerism gone mad! I must admit I will now think twice before purchases are made....

PetiteMum Sun 28-Apr-13 22:14:14

Asks? I meant asos....

4yoni I am completely confused about who is ethical and who isn't. I think there needs to be one trusted organisation, like the fairtrade logo we see on food and very occasionally on clothes (but is it just the cotton that is fairtrade not the working conditions of those in the garment industry?).

There does seem to be a contradiction between the different lists.

I think it is almost irrelevant who does it, because so many, nearly all brands do, are we going to target them all - how?! Clarks - how many mners buy their children's shoes from there, what are the alternatives?

Freya! Bras are a nightmare for me - that is the brand I always buy - do i boycott them or write and ask them what they are doing to improve working conditions?

I think the power of mumsnet could make such a difference, not just to target specific brands - but to promote companies known to be ethical, that ensure the clothing they profit from selling to us is made by someone who isn't starving/working in a death trap factory.

If you customise the score settings on the ethical consumer link with the sliders, then really the only high street companies that score above 5 are New Look and Bon Marche!

This link gives you a list of ethical companies, again I adjusted the sliders, putting people high etc, the bottom 4-6 (ish) traders still score poorly with Edun scoring zero!

Mannequinkate Sun 28-Apr-13 23:05:35

Fairtrade ensures the producer is paid a fair amount for his goods. So in terms of clothing only cotton is fair trade. This cotton then has to go through a mill and a dye house before getting to the factory floor before becoming the fair trade tshirt you are wearing.

None of the people in this chain once we leave the producer need be treated fairly by their employer for your tshirt to count as fair trade.

People in general will not pay more for an item if clothing because it is fair trade. So retailers cannot justify stocking it (unless specifically targeting a niche market). It isn't like a supermarket where they will have 30 different instant coffers so giving over some if that space to fair trade is a nobrainer. A clothing retailer has space for 1 white tshirt if theirs is more expensive than the one next door with no obvious difference except a fair trade sticker, most consumers would go next door and not bother coming back.

"When War on Want did its research into factories in Bangladesh supplying Tesco, Primark and ASDA last year, it found workers on less than 7p an hour working in excess of 70 hour weeks.(3) " 70 hours at 7 pence an hour = £4.90 for 70 hours work

"Paul Collins believes that since then, very little has changed for those workers, despite rhetoric from the companies that those clothes are being made under ethical conditions. “We would know from workers if there was a significant change in conditions,” agrees Maher.(8) “Unless companies can prove to us that workers are working in decent conditions, then it’s unlikely that just because they are ETI (ethical trade initiative) members workers are being treated fairly and being paid enough ”. From looking at ethical school uniform scroll down for the comment.

creamsoda Mon 29-Apr-13 00:51:58

V interesting thread, I try to buy fair trade/organic/second hand where possible but acknowledge that the only real ethical and environmental choice is not to buy. Cotton is the dirtiest crop in terms of water use and pesticides and so coupled with the use of slave labor in production, it's difficult to consider buying clothing as ethical.
'Green is the new black' was a really interesting read, as was 'Eco chick'.
Also, 'blood, sweat and tshirts' is a informative documentary in terms of sweat shops, as it does look at the realism of jobs being needed.
Natural collection.com is a great website, as is the amnesty clothing site (think they have nudie jeans)
I think the sad fact is that businesses feel a constant drive to grow so more profit is demanded.
Check out the Forbes rich list...many clothing companies have created the richest people in the world (Zara!) and let's face it, in order to get that rich, exploitation has happened...
I would love to live in a world where people really did 'come before profit'. I guess accepting that we need to buy less, but be willing to spend more to ensure trade is truly fair is one way to do it, and try to use people tree etc when we do buy is a start.

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 29-Apr-13 10:31:07

Just listening to woman's hour and this is going to be discussed on there this week so will be interested to hear what their 'experts' have to say

Forgetfulmog Mon 29-Apr-13 11:09:26

Just ordered a dress from The People Tree website - they've got some gorgeous stuff on there

YoniOno Mon 29-Apr-13 11:40:14

As Frugal says above - Naomi Klein's book 'No Logo' is well worth a read, easy to read and v interesting.

Available from Amazon here or of course your local bookshop wink

It's all about how big brands outsource literally everything so all the likes of Nike actually do, is marketing and advertising. They own no factories, make nothing, produce nothing. Everything is outsourced and untraceable (allegedly) so nothing is their responsibility. I think it talks about Nike being one of the first companies to recognise that the less you actually do as a company, the more money you make. All they do is PR, all the work is done by people not directly employed by Nike.

So many parallels with the horsemeat scandal, where of course Tesco (who make nothing and stick their logo on everything) can blame their 'suppliers'.

It's modern slavery, when you are basically paid by a multinational but off the payroll... hidden by layers of borders and no logos anywhere until the last possible second. You're a supplier, not an employee, with no rights.

Bramshott Mon 29-Apr-13 11:50:05

I seem to remember New Look coming out of a previous ethical audit (maybe it was the ethical consumer one) quite well. Here's their ethical trading policy. M & S are also pretty good for fairtrade cotton basics, but I'm never sure if that's just the actual production of the cotton rather than the production of the garment.

ppeatfruit Mon 29-Apr-13 12:14:03

I bought some fairtrade Tshirts a couple of years ago from M & S and they were CHEAPER shock than the 'normal' ones !!!

VinegarDrinker Mon 29-Apr-13 12:15:18

I've bought M&S Fairtrade t shirts before too and felt pleased but even their Fairtrade stuff seems to score very badly on the links earlier upthread

FrugalFashionista Mon 29-Apr-13 12:18:43

I think we'd make the most progress by contacting the brands (via letter, email, FB, tweets) we love and inquiring about their ethical sourcing.

Personally, Zara purchases on hold. They have nothing about ethical personnel/subcontactor policy on their website and the past incidents sound really bad. I will shop at H&M and COS and Lindex and Vila instead (all of them seem to have made some progress) and explore niche ethical labels.

ppeatfruit Mon 29-Apr-13 12:28:11

Yes I agree frugal I have always bought organic cotton clothes\sheets where I can because I hate the thought of the poor workers being made ill by the over use of pesticides etc. in any countries. IMO the garment industry has a lot to answer for.

Well said Yoni "It's modern slavery, when you are basically paid by a multinational but off the payroll... hidden by layers of borders and no logos anywhere until the last possible second. You're a supplier, not an employee, with no rights."

Last night I trawled ethical consumer links to have a look at the ethical alternatives - quite a few of the brands are available at fashion conscience which has a real mix of clothes. I think my next pair of jeans and my summer shoes will come from there.

I like these ethletic converse style shoes - dearer than my usual local supermarket cheapies - but I won't be ashamed to wear them.

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